By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur & writer. Amine is the CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO.
When we start an entrepreneurial project, we naturally feel a great abundance of energy—that adrenaline rush that starts as soon as we wake up and gets us up on our feet and ready to roll in an instant.
But what if we suddenly feel detached from our business plan? When we started, we were in love with the idea of turning our dream into reality, and for it to materialize in the form of success and riches. It drove us forward, made us make significant life changes and compelled us to work on it every day.
I’ve been through my share of ups and downs as an entrepreneur myself, and I’ve had to abandon some of my projects over the years. Simply put, not every entrepreneurial project is a million-dollar idea. Here are my top signs that maybe you should call it quits.
1. Your growth has faltered.
When you launch a startup, growth is fundamental to keep your business afloat and to give you the belief and conviction that this is working and going somewhere. When growth begins to stumble, you need to rethink a few things to see if you can get this important factor back on track.
You may need to rethink the product or services you are marketing. Maybe there’s some tuning up that you can do to improve the product. Or maybe you need to look for new channels to direct your marketing campaigns.
If the above hasn’t worked, maybe you need to reassess what your best and most successful product should look like. It might not be a dramatic change in product or services, but you may need to make some changes, even at the cost of more expenses.
2. Your customer needs are different.
You need to ask this question periodically, even when sales are good. There may be another market for a product you might be missing out on—especially something that is related. When I co-founded my precious metals IRA company, we quickly realized that cryptocurrencies were going to be a big thing for investors.
We asked ourselves, “what are our investors’ needs right now that we are not catering to?” If we hadn’t, we would have missed that opportunity altogether or we would have gotten on the bandwagon way too late.
3. You need full-time help.
Depending on if you are still in the early stages of your startup or if you are in a more developed stage, this can mean different things to you. For early-stage startups, you are going to need to outsource certain tasks. True, this costs you money you may not have an abundance of, but it will also free your time up.
Outsourcing allows you to save time to do the job but also to save time you would need to learn the skills for the tasks. Getting the help you need is fundamental at every stage of your business.
Sometimes full-time helps pay for more than you might think. For entrepreneurs in more developed stages of their business, full-time help may be something you’re lacking in order to do more administrative and mechanical work. Free yourself for the imaginative aspect; it’s ideas that make money.
4. You’re suddenly looking at other projects.
This is an important message you need to listen to. Are you finding yourself too lazy to get up in the morning? When you are fully in love with your project, the energy you have as soon as you open your eyes is amazing. If you lose it, your heart is telling you something.
Are you losing interest in the actions you have to take to make your project successful? Some jobs can be tiresome or trivial, but when you have your goal in mind, you do them with a light heart. These and other signs may lead you to start looking at other projects.
Don’t resist too much. If the path you took is the wrong one, it’s cheaper in time and money to change track as soon as you realize it.
In 2009, I moved to China to provide digital marketing services to Chinese companies looking to expand into the U.S. I was there for a little more than a year when I realized it was not right for me. In fact, I was looking at other projects. And so IronMonk was born, and I haven’t regretted it since.
5. You begrudge the sacrifices made on your startup.
Having resentment for the choices you made can be a good or a bad thing. The bad is that these feelings can produce negative thoughts and lead you to stray away from your cherished project. Keep these thoughts in check. Remember, we all make choices—some for the good, some for the bad.
In either case, it leads to experience, and therefore it can be a good feeling. If we use resentment to learn from our mistakes rather than torture or punish ourselves, we can avoid the same mistake and make better choices in the future.
All entrepreneurs that I have met throughout my travels have some or all of the issues mentioned above at some point in their journey. What counts is that you can stay focused and keep your target in mind.
At the same time, be flexible, and allow yourself to change your target or the way you want to achieve your goals. Of course, we also need to have some grit—nothing valuable is easy. So, don’t lose heart when things get tough. If you love what you do, it can only be right for you.
But understand when you may have fallen out of love with your once dream project, and be flexible enough to see it if the time comes. If abandoning your project is what needs to happen, don’t be afraid to take that course of action.